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Being Modern: Novelty hats


In the old world, back when the measure of success had nothing to do with Twitter followers, an advertising slogan caught the public imagination that held, "If you want to get ahead get a hat!" These were the days when a cap, trilby or bowler would symbolise class, when the appropriate headwear could mark you out as a "man of ambition".

Today, thousands of grown men across the world will join St Patrick's Day parades wearing floppy black-felt top hats that resemble a pint of Guinness. In the majority of cases, said floppy headwear will be more upright than the wearer underneath. Great craic!

Yet the Guinness hat is merely the white-topped tip of the novelty hat iceberg. Head out to any large public gathering these days and they will be there: the vikings, the "dreadlocks", the joke baseball caps… Jesters all, often with bells on. Colin Hunt had his comedy ties, the Great British public have their novelty hats.

And before you go thinking that this trend (if one can call it such) is as class-based as those caps, trilbys and bowlers of yesteryear, three words: Ascot Ladies' Day. What was once an excuse for Cecil Beaton to let his imagination run wild for My Fair Lady has in recent years become an excuse for women to wear hats shaped like wedding cakes and an ice-cream cone concoction with edible Flake.

Let's not even get started on the fascinator, an item of apparel that if it fascinates at all, does so only because it begs the question why anyone in their right mind would ever wear such a thing in the first place.

And then, just when you think the whole novelty hat phenomenon has reached its illogical conclusion, along comes the next bright idea: "cute" animal hats, often with dangling mittens made to look like paws. Fine on children, perhaps, but, like Crocs, unforgivable on anyone over the age of seven.

Oh, and would hate to spoil anyone's fun and all, but surely a novelty hat is only a novelty if everyone else isn't wearing one, too.